Tag Archives: asatru

Industriousness: My Interpretation

Here’s my seventh essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Industriousness 

It’s interesting that industrious ends up being the essay I write today, of all days, considering how much work I’ve done today. Industriousness is the willingness to work hard at the tasks at hand. But it goes deeper than that. I don’t think industriousness is just hard work because anyone can work hard – I think it’s hard work with a good attitude. Being negative while working sets a bad example, so I think it’s important to do the best I can to be positive when I work. I don’t always succeed, of course, but I do my best to maintain a positive attitude.

Today was interesting, though. I ended up having quite a bit of work to do. At my job, I ended up replacing some old documents and taking inventory, which took around an hour and a half. Since I do a work study, I don’t have many hours of work, so I did that and left to go discuss my math homework with my teacher. I’m currently taking precalculus, and we just started the unit on conic sections, and it’s a little bit difficult to grasp. I’m confident I will understand it, though, as long as I work at it until it “clicks.”

After that, I ran into my friend, Holly, who had just taken a Stats test. She asked if I wanted to get lunch, and I agreed, so I had a nice lunch break with her and helped her de-stress a little. She has pretty bad test anxiety, even though she understands the subject fine, and a break from schoolwork was exactly what she needed.

When I got back from my lunch break, I finished up my last hour of work for the day, then headed to my precalculus class. I struggled through the lab the teacher assigned, but I kept at it until I finished it. Then I went to Spanish, and we never really do much in my Spanish class, so that was fine.

Afterwards, I went to the Academic Support Center (or tutoring place) with Ben, my co-president in the Global Students Club. We spent three hours coming up with the fall schedule for our club and creating flyers and infographics for the Spring Fling tomorrow. Even though it was a lot of work, I had a lot of fun working on the stuff for the club. We have a lot of fun events planned for the fall semester, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out.

I’ve also been working pretty diligently on this blog, and, thus, my own spiritual studies, though I hesitate to call them something so serious. But I have fun with it, which is the real point I’m making here. Work doesn’t have to be serious – it can also be fun. I think that’s also true about spiritual work, and, in fact, I think that it’s almost required.

I actually have to work at having fun sometimes because I can get way too serious – I actually had a friend tell me that she wanted to call me Serene Moon (back in elementary school when we were all obsessed with Mercedes Lackey books) because I was always brooding. I think it’s a little ironic, that I have to work at having fun, but I mean, hey – life wouldn’t be life if it wasn’t full of ironic twists and turns.

 

Hospitality: My Interpretation

Here’s my sixth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Hospitality

To be hospitable is to be respectful. Hospitality is the willingness to share what we can afford to share with others. In some ways, it’s a sacrifice of the self for the good of the whole. Since Asatru puts a very high value on community, acting in a way that benefits the community is necessary.

Some people assume that hospitality refers to just their immediate in-groups, but I think hospitality refers to people in general. If I meet someone new, then I am not going to make assumptions about them, not on any front. And I’m not going to judge them based on the choices they’ve chosen to take in life. I may ask about them, in order to learn what path they have walked, and, perhaps, learn something in the process. But I do my best to stay respectful.

I think, in a lot of ways, that American society has taught us to be cruel without realizing our cruelty. I’ve heard teachers laugh at certain students when they talk about certain types of dreams, and it saddens me. Because why laugh at someone else’s dream? There is no kindness in that, and there is no respect.

Hospitality means reserving judgment. If someone tells me that their dream is to become a famous athlete, politician, writer, or anything else, why should I laugh at their dreams? At their aspirations? Even if it’s a hard truth that few people ever aspire to their dreams, why should I actively seek to disparage dreamers? The truth is, none of us know who will and won’t achieve their dreams. Some of us aren’t even sure what it is we seek in life, and we wander down many paths, just waiting for something to click.

I think that’s part of the reason I follow Odin. He is the wanderer, after all. Restless in spirit, always moving around, always learning something new – I connect with him on an incredibly deep level, and I don’t always have the words I need to say the things I mean. I sometimes read the forums on Asatru Lore, just to see what’s going on there, and I came across a post the other day about a guy asking how to spell the word “Outsider” in runes for a tattoo. He got a lot of backlash from the community. A lot of people told him that to brand himself as an outsider was to reject community, and that if they ever saw him, they would instantly avoid him.

The response I saw made me incredibly sad because no one really tried to understand where he was coming from. No one really tried to discover the story he had to tell, or uncover the reason why he felt like such an outsider he wanted to brand himself as one. They just pointed out that it isn’t very “heathen” to be an outsider, since heathens are very community focused. None of what they were saying was technically wrong, but it wasn’t a very respectful way to act. The poster even commented on how he was being disrespected (and he was), but the reply to his comment was that he couldn’t come onto an internet board and expect respect, that respect is earned.

That is, frankly speaking, bullshit. Not the part about respect being earned – it is earned. But as the old saying goes, “Give respect to get respect.” Just because the method of communication was via an internet forum, it seems people think it gives them a license to act without considering the fact the person on the other side is human.

Hospitality has to extend to all realms, whether it’s in our own homes, in our communities, or over the internet. Respect should be given to everyone until they do or say something that warrants the loss of that respect. If a person comes into my home, then I am going to offer them drink and refreshment. If someone at my school asks me for help, then I am going to try to help them, if I am able to do so. And if someone asks for advice on an internet forum, I am going to be honest but tactful about how the phrasing comes out. Because we are all human, and we all view the world in different ways. And I, personally, feel that it is vital that we respect the differences that define us. To me, that is the soul of hospitality.

Fidelity: My Interpretation

Here’s the 4th of my essays on the 9 Noble Virtues.

Fidelity 

To me, fidelity is loyalty. Loyalty to family, to friends, to the Gods I follow. I don’t always agree with my friends or family, and I don’t get along with all the Gods. But disagreements are common in all families, whether those families are blood families, friend families, or god families. And when I disagree with someone in any of my families, I still always acknowledge that my ties to them, my loyalty to them, is more important than the argument.

I’ve never understood how families can estrange themselves. How parents can disown their children or how children can refuse to talk to their parents for years. Perhaps that’s because I lost my mother when I was 15. Perhaps her loss taught me just how much family matters. Because even though there were things I hated about her, like her alcoholism, I still loved her. She was still my mother.

I’ve had friends, over the years, who were estranged from their parents for various reasons, and I always tried to encourage them to eliminate that distance without blatantly interfering. It’s not my place to decide which path another person walks, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly wrap my head around complete estrangement from family.

Family is incredibly important to me, despite the difficulties I’ve faced throughout my life that are directly tied to my family. But those difficulties aren’t the only things that define my relationship with my family. There is a lot more than that, but I don’t know how to express the depth or complexity of my family dynamics without writing a book, and I’m not sure I’m ready to write a book about my life just yet – even though my grandmother keeps urging me to write one.

But I have more ties than just familial ones. There are also the ties I have to my friends. I have a lot of acquaintances, but my real friends are like family to me. If they need me, I’m there, even if I’m in the middle of my own problems. My friends are the people who have seen me at my worst and at my best and have stuck around. To me, that is what defines loyalty. Not a lack of disagreements, but the ability to compromise and move past them. And I have three incredibly close friends, despite the fact we all live incredibly far away from one another, that I trust completely. I’m reminded of the verse in the Havamal that reads:

“Crooked and far | is the way to a foe,

Though his house on the highway be;

But wide and straight | is the way to a friend,

Though far away he fare.”

That’s verse 34 of the Havamal and it comes from the Henry Adams Bellows translation, which happens to be my preferred translation of the Poetic Edda. And I agree with the sentiment, since two of my closest friends live in different countries, and the third lives 18 hours away from me. The distance doesn’t matter, though, as the four of us have been close for five years. Distance, time – all those things are relative.

As well as family and friends, my loyalty to the Gods is an important aspect of my life. I can and will discuss my faith with anyone, even when doing so is a little bit scary. A couple weeks ago, at work, a man came in and started basically going on and on about Jesus – a total zealot. I listened to him patiently for about 30 minutes because he just talked on and on without giving anyone a chance to say anything. But when I found an opening, I told him that I have a lot of respect for people who are dedicated to their own path, but that I wasn’t Christian. When I told him I was pagan, he turned around and left, but I didn’t hide it. One of my co-workers, who was standing beside me and heard the whole thing, told me she was glad that I spoke up about my beliefs. It was an interesting experience, to say the least.

And I’ve had other interesting encounters. At one of my previous jobs, I was reading a book on the history of the Vikings, and a co-worker came up to me and asked why I was reading the book. I told her that I was reading it because it pertained to my faith, and I explained what my faith was. She instantly started trying to witness to me, but it stopped her cold when I told her that I’d read the Bible all the way through, and that Christianity didn’t appeal to me. She was incredulous that I’d read the Bible and wasn’t Christian, and she kept trying to push the faith on me, until I finally asked her if she had read the book. When she said no, I told her that if she wanted to continue the conversation, she needed to go read the Bible herself before trying to witness to me. Later that day, I found out that she had never met someone who wasn’t either Christian or an atheist before, and it really shook up her worldview. I was pretty amused when I found that out, of course, because by being honest, I acted as a catalyst for her to realize the world wasn’t as black and white as she thought.

And that’s what I try to do – I try to behave in ways I feel emulate the Gods I follow. I see Odin as a warrior scholar, so I do a lot of research and I also have firm opinions. I’m willing to defend myself if I ever have need to, and I do defend myself when the need arises – even if the battle is just one of wits. I see Loki as a catalyst for change and the seeker of buried truths, so I keep my mind as open as possible, trying to look at things from every perspective without allowing other people’s opinions or beliefs to define my own. Tyr I see as a noble warrior who mediates without flinching if his own well-being comes into the process. And these are the three paths I mainly attempt to walk, though I am slowly learning other paths as well. That’s the truly difficult part of being a polytheist – there’s no way to walk a single path, not when the path of each God is different.

So fidelity, for me, is walking the paths the Gods have set before me, staying true to my friends, and staying true to my family. In my mind, this is probably the simplest of the nine virtues, but loyalty, to spite its seeming simplicity, is actually incredibly complex. Because it’s not always easy to stay loyal to your friends, your family, or the Gods you follow. No wonder, then, that oaths, once made, are so heavily weighed.  

 

Truth: My Interpretation

Here’s my third essay on the Nine Noble Virtues, this time discussing Truth.

Truth

Truth is a relative concept, especially in matters of faith. What I believe to be true, others believe to be false, and vice versa. In this regard, I believe it’s better to accept everyone’s beliefs as valid, even if I don’t agree with them. When I was in high school, I had a conversation with a friend once, and I ended up telling her that I believed every path was valid. That every path leads to the same destination, so it doesn’t matter which faith you follow – nothing can be proven true or false, so everything might as well be true.

I’ve never been able to properly explain that belief because it’s incredibly complex, despite how simple it seems. I’ve had people ask me how it’s possible for every path to be true when certain faiths teach that only one path is correct. That isn’t a question I can really answer, but I still think all faiths are viable paths through life. I think that we all choose our own paths through life, though, and I feel it’s important to respect the decisions other people make.

I recognized a long time ago that my truth is not everyone else’s truth, and I have accepted that. There are billions of people in the world, and if we all walked the same path, life would be incredibly boring. And I don’t want to live in a boring world – I think we can all agree on that.

I’ve also learned, however, that my beliefs are rather unique. I’ve yet to meet another person who sees the world the way I do, and that’s actually pretty awesome. Because that means I have met a lot of people who see the world in ways I don’t, and I love seeing how other people see the world.

I follow Asatru, but I’m not a reconstructionist. A lot of people have jumped on me for daring to claim that faith when I don’t believe in Reconstructionism, but Asatru is so much more than just rebuilding a religion to me. I could easily say Norse Paganism, but that isn’t as accurate.

The main issue with reconstruction, for me, is that history and archaeology, despite how fascinating they are, require a lot of guesswork. Educated guesswork, sure, but guesswork all the same. I would personally prefer not to base my own practices on guesswork. In a way, I guess, I let intuition guide me.

And that’s probably because I spent ten years as an eclectic pagan before I ever discovered Asatru – well, I should say before it discovered me. I met a Heathen for the first time when I was 22, and we started discussing worldviews, and after that, I started having incredibly powerful dreams. Dreams that were directly linking me to Odin and the Norse Gods. It was the first time, in my entire pagan experience, that I’d felt the call of a particular pantheon so strongly.

Still, I wasn’t about to abandon everything I’d believed for ten years and embrace a completely new faith. I did research, and I learned that most of my beliefs fit within the Asatru framework. Everything except the reconstructionist part, but I’ve never believed in reconstruction. As I said, history and archaeology is just educated guesswork, and historical accounts can’t always be trusted – my experience with the school system has taught me that.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like learning about the history – it just means I take everything with a grain of salt, and if I agree with something, I adopt it. If I don’t, I do further research into it, and if I still don’t find it relevant for me, I discard it.

In any case, I believe our truths define us. When someone asks me what I believe and are looking for a more in-depth answer, I’m always forced to tell them that it’s complicated. Because to other people, my beliefs seem to contradict themselves. I’ll try to explain, but I have yet to find a way to properly articulate this, so bear with me.

I follow the Norse pantheon, but I believe that all Gods that could exist do exist – I just don’t follow all of them. I believe that the Gods are real entities, but I also believe they are the embodiment of different concepts, and each God embodies more than one concept. For example, Odin is the embodiment of wisdom, poetry, travel, etc. Loki is the embodiment of change, of catalysts, of fire, of laughter… etc. Tyr is the embodiment of balance, harmony, honor, courage…etc. And I could go on for each of the Gods and Goddesses, but that’s the general gist of it.

Then there’s the fact that I believe in one unifying cosmic source. That the Gods and Goddesses all spring from the cosmic source and are aspects of that source, split into many pieces in order to make it easier for people to comprehend that source. That’s probably the most difficult thing to explain to people because while I’m a polytheist, I’m also a pantheist and animist. The idea that the universe is everything in one and one in everything is a pantheistic idea, and a lot of people assume that pantheism and polytheism are incompatible. For others, I’m sure that’s true. For me, it works.

And that, to me, is what truth is. Truth is relative. Everyone views the world in a different light, and we all have our own truths. My truths are not going to be the same as someone else’s truths, and I’m okay with that. Truth is not only a singular concept but also a plural one. There can be one truth, but there can also be many truths. Otherwise it wouldn’t be possible for so many different faiths proclaiming so many different truths to exist in the world. Truth is relative to who each person is individually, to the way a person is raised, and to the culture that a person belongs to. We are a complex species. So, too, are our truths.

Honor: My Interpretation

Here’s my second essay on the Nine Noble Virtues, the one on Honor.

Honor

Honor is probably the most difficult of all of the virtues to define because it is such an intangible idea. Socrates said “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be,” and I think that captures honor – the way I understand it – pretty well.

Every society has its own view of morality, and staying true to the moral code or ethical code is generally perceived as being honorable. But I think that honor is more than that – I think it has to be more than that, as the moral code our society embraces is not always one I view as being honorable.

For me, being honorable is equivalent to being trustworthy and worthy of the respect you gain through your own efforts. It is an essential quality of life, and I think if you replace the word “honor” with “respect” the idea becomes a little easier to grasp. Respect is something we earn through our deeds – as is honor. And to defend the reputation we gain after establishing that respect is required if we wish to maintain that respect.

But we all wear a mask. We all pretend to be something – a particular quality, perhaps, like honest, or trustworthy. And it may start out as pretense, or as an exercise to try and better ourselves. The pursuit of self-improvement is an honorable one, and, if we maintain the pretense long enough, it starts to become our truth. The idea that we can “fake it til we make it,” seems like a cop-out, but it isn’t.

Like any muscle must be worked in order to keep it from atrophying, we must work our moral muscles as well. If we wish to be honest people, then we must practice being honest. If we wish to be kind, then we must practice being kind. If we wish to be noble, then we must practice being noble. Our species is one that learns by mimicking others.

If we grow up watching others steal, then we admire thievery and seek to establish ourselves as thieves. If we grow up watching others lie, then we admire deceit and seek to establish ourselves as great manipulators. But if we grow up watching others be honest, then we learn to admire honesty and seek to establish ourselves as truth-tellers. If we grow up watching others be kind, then we learn to admire kindness, and seek to establish ourselves as compassionate.

Honor, therefore, is a very personal thing. What I view as an honorable act may seem dishonorable to someone else because we had vastly different learning experiences growing up, and thus value different actions. For example, a person who has developed a reputation as a great thief will put his honor on the line for a great heist – if he fails, then his reputation (and thus his honor) is destroyed, but if he succeeds, he becomes even more of a legend. For a great detective, catching such a thief will allow him to maintain his honor, but failing to do so will destroy his reputation.

So honor is different for every person – we all view morality in different lights. On my part, I admire great teachers, and I aim to become a great teacher myself, after obtaining the necessary education. But I’ve already started to build a reputation as a good teacher because I teach my classmates when they need help, and I’ve established a trust with them. I can easily lose that trust if I fail to adhere to my own understanding of what makes a teacher a good one.

And that’s an important fact about honor – it can be gained, maintained, and lost easily. It takes effort to maintain a good reputation, and if a person’s not willing to put in the work required to create a good reputation or maintain it after it’s achieved, then the honor is lost. Respect is lost. And once you lose someone’s respect, part of your honor is destroyed, and there’s no real way to repair that rift.